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Onward and upward
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Published Sunday, August 14, 2016 @ 11:24 AM EDT
Aug 14 2016

Unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, I resolved to write a book.
-Edward Gibbon

While waiting for the Social Security to kick in and hoping the intermittent consulting contracts continue, I've decided to take advantage of the self-publishing outfits like Createspace and Kindle Publishing and try to make a buck or two by publishing various unpublished works I've written over the years.

I have no J.K. Rowling-like delusions of grandeur here, but I do think one or two of my projects might be slightly successful.

A few years back I self-published Eff the Ineffable, Scrute the Inscrutable, a collection of quotations I'd gathered over the years. On-demand published through CafePress, I sold a couple each month until, for some reason, CafePress somehow damaged the .pdf file and could not generate new copies of the book.

My new untitled quotations collection will be in e-book form, link-accessible by subject and author, thus eminently more usable than the print-based "Eff". Categorizing each quote is not precisely a trivial effort, and I have to write the software to generate the book in a Kindle-usable format. I also want to add another 2,500 or so quotations to get the total up to a nice, round, marketable 40,000.

So please indulge me should I miss a day or so here on the blog. I'm fairly active here and here on Facebook, where I generally hang out ro maintain the few feeble remaining social contacts I have.

Will keep you all posted. And thanks for your continued support.


Categories: KGB, KGB Blog News


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Getting better every day
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Published Thursday, August 11, 2016 @ 8:09 PM EDT
Aug 11 2016

Instead of a bulky "Elizabethan" collar, we outfitted Pixie with a onesie that belonged to my wife's granddaughter. It worked quite well, keeping her from worrying her incision, making her feel she was being constantly snuggled, and weirding out the other animals so they wouldn't bother her.

She spent the first full day after surgery lying around, whimpering, and looking pitiful. We were a bit concerned. Then Pumpkin the cat, upset because there was no more gravy in her can of cat food, pushed it off the counter where she eats.

As soon as it hit the floor with a resounding splat, Pixie shot out of her bed and into the kitchen, in order to beat the Shelties to the tasty remnants of the cat's meal.

We're much relieved. Pixie is doing fine.


Categories: Cats, Dogs, KGB


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Another update
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Published Wednesday, August 10, 2016 @ 11:46 PM EDT
Aug 10 2016


"I hurt, I'm sleepy, and I'm never going to trust you again.

Pixie was spayed, had a deciduous tooth and a molar removed, and had an umbilical hernia repaired today. We dropped her off at the vet at 8:30 am and picked her up about 2:30pm.

The tech said everything went without a hitch. Perhaps, but that look in Pixie's eyes haunts me. I think I've lost her trust.

When we took her to the vet this morning, my wife stayed in the car. So the person who handed her over to the strangers who performed these atrocities to her person was me. When we rescued her from her torturers, Mom got a whimper and a tail wag. Me: nada.

Pixie's still rather out of it. She's been mostly asleep all day, and just had a little bit of chicken and some water. I'm downstairs working in my office; she's upstairs sleeping in her dog bed with her blanket and her stuffed bunny, with Mom sleeping just a few feet away.

Dogs are nothing if not forgiving and conduits of unconditional love, so I'm sure Pixie and I will be as right as rain in a few days. Still, that look...

On the plus side, just a day after her flea treatment Pumpkin the 19 year old cat is back to her imperious yet affectionate self, tapping me on the leg when she wants fed and climbing on me whenever I lie on the couch, becoming her soft, warm piece of human furniture.

I didn't sleep last night, worrying about Pix, and I have to work late tonight to catch up on everything I didn't do yesterday. Life goes on.

====

If you have a chance, watch the Tom Hanks movie A Hologram For The King. It's about a divorced, self-doubting, desperate American salesman who has to put on a demo for the king of Saudi Arabia. As someone who's had to do demos in a non-English speaking country under adverse conditions, I could really identify with Hanks' character.

A relatively small film, it cost $30 million but grossed only $4.7 million in the US, where it played for 11 weeks. Its widest release was just 523 theaters. It has the dubious distinction of being the lowest grossing film to feature Tom Hanks in top billing since 1986's Every Time We Say Goodbye, which ran in only 83 theaters and grossed only $278,000.


Categories: Cats, Dogs, KGB, Tom Hanks


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Where's Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?
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Published Saturday, August 06, 2016 @ 5:52 PM EDT
Aug 06 2016

The letter from Capital One said a data breach at a local merchant had possibly compromised my credit card, and that they were sending me a new one. A few days later, a new, security chip imbued card arrived with orders to destroy the old card and active the new one immediately.

Potential catastrophe averted, right?

This past Monday I had a medical appointment. As I was sitting in my car preparing to leave, I quickly scanned my email and saw an urgent message from Capital One with the subject line "Please confirm your recent purchases."

"Our fraud defenses flagged one or more purchase(s) below as unusual for your MASTERCARD PLATINUM card ending in xxxx. Do you or an authorized user recognize these purchases?"

The email listed $2,100 in purchases from Saltwater Aquarium. These were obviously bogus purchases, so I clicked on the "Something's Wrong" button within the email, which sent me to a web page that told me to call their fraud department immediately.

Not wanting to have what was undoubtedly going to be an animated conversation in a moving vehicle, I waited until I got home. I logged into my account on Capital One's website and noted the three offending purchases were posted under "Pending Transactions" and that their presence there had reduced my available credit balance to zero.

I called the number on the back of the card, bounced through a number of recorded option selections, then finally was connected to a human being with- sigh- a heavy Indian accent.

I explained the Saltwater Aquarium purchases were not made by me and that, rather significantly, they were charged to my old credit card number, the one they replaced with the new card after they had supposedly closed that account and opened a new one.

The customer service rep explained that the old card was still "tied" to the new one.

"The charges on the old card number were made three weeks after I activated the new card. Why would that old number still be active?

The customer service rep repeated that the old card was still "tied" to the new one, but offered no explanation why they would honor a card they had replaced.

Profuse apologies were offered, and a new card, with a new number, arrived the next day via FedEx.

The unauthorized charges still appear on my bill, offset by "purchase adjustments" which cancel them out. And today, a $299.98 "pending purchase" appeared, with no merchant name, designated as "other," and charged to the new replacement card I received on Tuesday.

The website says "Pending transactions are deducted from your available credit. They are not final and may differ from the posted amount. Transactions in a pending status cannot be disputed and generally post within 5 days."

I called Captial One, was bounced through two operators to a third who was, apparently, the person who put the $299.98 charge on my account today. However, she was not in, as she works Monday through Friday. I left a voice mail, to which her recording said she will respond withing two days.

Stay tuned... Where's Samuel L. Jackson when you need him?


Categories: Capital One, KGB


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Overdrawn at the memory bank
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Published Saturday, July 30, 2016 @ 9:09 AM EDT
Jul 30 2016

While wandering through Rite Aid the other day, I picked up a bottle of cognizin citicoline, a supplement that appears to be effective in enhancing memory and mental focus.

So, when filling up prescripion organizer for the week, I looked forward to adding yet another pill.

But I don't remember where I put the bottle,


Categories: Drugs, KGB


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Status check
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Published Monday, July 25, 2016 @ 1:38 AM EDT
Jul 25 2016

The last of my unemployment benefits will hit the bank account this week. In the past 26 or so weeks, I've learned that if you're over 40, it's difficult to get a job in the tech sector, and while the compliments are appreciated, there are virtually no potential employers posting classified advertisements seeking smart people (as in, "a smart person like you should have no problem finding a job").

So... after 16 years, I'm self-employed again. Funny thing about unemployment insurance; if you're self-employed, you're not eligible to receive it. I've been fortunate to have customers who paid me as a part-time employee, withholding taxes, etc., which allowed me to continue to receive benefits. From this point on, I'm an independent contractor, the vaunted small businessman, an essential vertebra in the financial backbone of this great nation. I'll try to hold up my end, America.

I turn 62 in September, and to make certain I have a guaranteed monthly cash flow, I applied for Social Security retirement benefits. My application was approved and I was told my benefits would begin in November, not October, as one would believe from reading the rules.

I called my local Social Security office and was told that in order to start receiving benefits in November, I "have to survive the month of October," which is a rather odd way of phrasing it. Maybe the government knows something I don't. Frankly, I'm more worried about surviving November 8.

My work history dates back 45 years. I graduated from high school at the age of 16 in 1971, and my first full-time job was as a veterinary assistant, which consisted primary of restraining cats and dogs and preparing and checking stool specimens under a microscope for parasite eggs. Social Security's earnings record said I made $967 that year, when the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. I worked at the vet from the summer into the fall, when I was hired as a newspaper reporter. The details of that adventure are here.

It's interesting to review over four decades of one's work history. The earnings record said in 1974, my last full year as a newspaper reporter/editor, I earned $7,656, or $37,431.78 in 2016 dollars. It certainly seemed less at the time. So I started the third in a succession of career changes that led me to my present situation.

Onward and upward. I have to write some custom software for a customer and prepare a couple books I'm going to sell on Amazon's Kindle site. And, of course, I have to write here for the 2,600 or so of you who check in everyday.

So if you see something here every day, you know things are more or less percolating along.

-----

"The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."
-Madeleine L'Engle


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Back to the future
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Published Wednesday, March 30, 2016 @ 1:40 PM EDT
Mar 30 2016

"Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it." - Brian Kernighan

Working on a major project and including code from stuff I wrote in 1988. It reminds me of how much I've forgotten- well, not forgotten, but not recently accessed. The feeling's similar to the rush of memories you get when viewing an old picture album. And it's reassuring to see my overall state of mind hasn't changed, based on the comments in the code, like:

* Years from now you will review this function and say to
* yourself:
*
* "Boy, this is really crappy code. I should take the time and
* optimize it."
*
* You probably won't remember, but you spend an entire
* weekend of unbillable time tweaking this. You increased its
* execution speed by 30%, but in the process crafted
* a function of such blinding elegance that when you
* reviewed it the next day, you discovered it was totally
* incomprehensible. So you put the old code back in.
*
* This is running on a 386 machine with a 12Mhz clock
* and 640K, and the profiler lists the execution time as 211
* milliseconds. A bit slow, but acceptable.
*
* So forget about it.

"12 Mhz clock and a full 640k."

My current laptop has a 2.4 gigaHertz clock, which is 200 times faster than that old 386 desktop. That kludgy, awkwardly written function that required 211 milliseconds to run now takes a little over one millisecond, and the file that took 20 seconds to process runs so fast that the command prompt returns immediately after I hit the return key.

Thank you, 1988 KGB, for the unexpectedly wise advice. And by the way, Fox canceled Tracey Ullman, but the Simpsons got their own show and are still on the air. And that "Naked Gun" movie you saw with Doug last weekend? Keep an eye on O.J. Simpson. Trust me.

You may ask, how did I remember taking my son to see "Police Squad?" Thanks to Google and the Internet Movie Database, this program comment now makes sense:

* "Hey Look! It's Enrico Pallazzo!"


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A blast from the past
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Published Saturday, January 09, 2016 @ 9:52 PM EST
Jan 09 2016

In the dark ages before the internet, it was necessary to disseminate information by printing ink on paper. Today we get our information instantly and electronically, but, truth be told, I prefer print. It has substance. It's tangible. Unless physically destroyed, it's permanent... unlike websites and PDF files, whose content can be changed at any time without the readers' knowledge.

Back in my consulting business days, Kgb Report was an irregularly published newsletter. Irregular because consulting was my primary business, and I put out a newsletter primarily to impress potential clients or to have a handout at training classes.

This specific issue was my favorite. It took me a week to write and typeset, it cost about $500 to print and $250 to mail. It generated a number of clients and also a lot of compliments for the density of information it contained, including an in-depth report on VMS disk defragmentation, which was a big issue at the time.

There's some PC stuff in there as well, so even if you're unfamiliar with VMS and VAXen, it's an interesting take on what the state of the art was 25 years ago, when the world was a simpler place and we didn't have to get our information by sitting in front of a screen and clicking incessantly.

June 1990 KGB Report (PDF format)


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Quotes of the day: Me.
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Published Wednesday, September 09, 2015 @ 11:27 PM EDT
Sep 09 2015

Kevin George Barkes (b. September 11, 1954) is the publisher of this blog and its prior print incarnation, and, since 2000, has been employed as a support engineer and application designer for Datalogics, Incorporated, a Chicago-based software company founded in 1967.

An autodidact, he graduated from Homestead High School in 1971 at age 16 and has worked as: a veterinary assistant; daily newspaper reporter and photographer; city editor; county government service center administrator; typesetter, print/typesetting production supervisor, computer systems manager of a legal/financial printing company; and as a columnist and contributing editor for two national computer trade magazines. Prior to joining Datalogics, he owned KGB Consulting, a computer consulting, facilities management, and database publishing company.

Born in Homestead, PA, he has mostly resided in South Park Township, PA since 1984.

He has been married to his current wife, Cynthia, since 2009. He has two children from a previous marriage, two grandchildren, two Shetland Sheepdogs, two cats, and a small, insane, dog-like creature referred to as a Shih Tzu.

-----

Any sufficiently advanced parody is indistinguishable from reality.

Arcane knowledge can be useful, even though its acquisition can seem pointless. That funny-looking key you picked up a few years ago might eventually unlock a door leading to a totally unexpected opportunity.

Aside from production values, the only difference between an Al Qaeda terrorist video and the 700 Club is that Al Qaeda doesn't ask for contributions.

Democrats get impeached for having sex. Republicans get impeached for undermining the integrity of the Republic.

Every Sunday I give thanks that there's nothing in Leviticus about liking show tunes.

Filing for bankruptcy is sort of like winning the lotto, except you still have to search under the couch cushions for loose change.

Hitting the delete key and changing the channel are satisfying but ineffective methods of denying reality.

I don't need electronic devices to locate my cats. I have hairballs.

I never throw anything away, which is irrelevant because I can never remember where I put anything.

I'm in pretty good shape for someone in the shape I'm in.

I'm never going to be rich and influential. I took an oath only to use my powers for good.

I've come to the realization that gray is the mature form of blond.

I referred to second Gulf War as Desert Storm 2.0, since it reminded me of a Microsoft upgrade: it was expensive, most people didn't want it, and it didn't work.

If Windows was a person, it'd be a real pale kid with pink eyes and a banjo.

In software design, 'building a foundation for future development' can result in digging a bottomless pit.

It's a delusion of grandeur only if you can't pull it off.

It's amazing the number of persons intimidated by mere competence.

It's called 'sodomy' because it's easier to pronounce than 'gomorrahry.'

Just keep in mind that most men who chat with you on the Internet look like me.

Life is a recursive plunge.

Manhattan's a mosh pit. You jump into it in the morning, close your eyes, grit your teeth, and hope you're still breathing when it tosses you out at the end of the day.

Never become an expert in anything you didn't create.

Never negotiate with terrorists or children.

No problem is unsolvable, but there are some that just aren't worth the effort.

Now medical experts are saying that it's not coffee, booze or cigarettes that cause heart attacks, but sustained hostile emotional attitudes. Maybe we have hostile emotional attitudes because you made us give up the freaking coffee, booze and cigarettes, you clueless white-frocked cretins!

Presbyterians believe they're predestined to have free will.

Republicans are sore losers even when they win.

Saying Windows 10 is the most powerful and secure operating system in the Microsoft family is like saying Moe was the smart Stooge.

Some days those bridge abutments at the side of the road look pretty damned attractive.

The conservatives' preoccupation with the burning of American flags can be attributed to the amount of time they spend wrapped in them.

The difference between investing in Internet stock and Beanie Babies is that with Internet stock you don't get Beanie Babies.

The Internet is run by a guy named Heisenberg, and his principles are uncertain.

The laserdisc was the 8-track of the 90s.

The only good thing about turning fifty is that I no longer have to worry about dying young.

The problem learning something new at my age is the nagging suspicion it's actually just something I forgot.

The problem with lawyers is that they don't believe in divine intervention.

The realization that your existence isn't going to change the course of western civilization makes sleeping in a lot more enjoyable.

The U.S. Constitution and the Bible have a lot in common. Few people have read them in their entirety; they are quoted out of context and cherry-picked; their official interpreters wear robes and issue pronouncements that sometimes benefit an entitled few or discriminate against women and minorities; and their decrees and commandments are simply ignored when they interfere with the interests of those in power.

There is no 'I' in team. There is, however, a 'U' in sucker.

True, everyone lies, but there's a difference between 'No, those pants don't make your ass look fat, and 'No, there's nothing incriminating in those unreleased tax returns.'

We're supposed to prepare for a non-specific terrorist attack of a spectacular nature? What the hell does that mean? Why don't they just put Tom Ridge in a Jedi robe, push him out in front of the cameras, and have him declare he senses a disturbance in The Force?

What I really need is a reality-altering substance.

Why are the sizes of unnatural growths described in terms of sports equipment for men, and citrus fruit for women?

-----

(September 11 is also the birthday of D.H. Lawrence.)


Categories: KGB, Quotes of the day


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And another one bites the dust...
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Published Saturday, February 07, 2015 @ 8:19 AM EST
Feb 07 2015

Yet another formative component of my life disappears.

After paying the route manager on Saturday morning, the remainder of the money I earned from delivering the Daily Messenger and the Pittsburgh Press was generally spent by noon at the Radio Shack in Homestead. Breadboard kits, solder, and electronics books kept me occupied until the next Saturday, when I'd do it all over again.

In high school, I made friends with the manager and became an unpaid intern of sorts, spending hours reading product data sheets, helping set up displays, and handing out free batteries to all the old folks from the Homestead apartments who stopped by on their way to cash their Social Security checks.

When I was in my late 20s, I began what became the last of my careers- computers. In 1981 I bought a 4K Radio Shack Color Computer that I eventually hacked into a 64K system with a 300 baud modem, four 5 1/4" floppy disk drives and a C compiler, running the multi-user Microware OS-9 operating system. It provided me with the skills needed to make the jump to DEC's VMS operating system and VAXes... and the rest is history.

Like Heathkit and the mail-order electronics training schools, Radio Shack- at least the Radio Shack of the 60s, 70s and 80s- will be sorely missed. Radio Shack in its current form had been in a figurative coma for the last 10-15 years. It's sad to pull the plug, but there's really nothing left to save.

Anyway- thanks, Radio Shack.

-----

"In its heyday, RadioShack was so much more than a store — it was an art gallery, a museum, a school. “You didn’t really have really good electronics magazines full of what’s available,” Wozniak remembers. “You had a few catalogues that were full of things like walkie-talkies, but if you went down to RadioShack you could actually see something.” As a teenager he would walk into stores and soak up information, spending hours reading labels, and memorizing prices and feature lists. It was inside those walls where so many watched the technological revolution unfold — and where they first jumped in."

How RadioShack Helped Build Silicon Valley (Wired)


Categories: KGB, Radio Shack


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Here we go again...
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Published Wednesday, December 31, 2014 @ 8:11 AM EST
Dec 31 2014

It is not true that life is one damn thing after another- it is one damn thing over and over.
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

KGB Report welcomes you to the Eve of 2015: May this arbitrary, transient point in your solipsistic sense of the space-time continuum delineate the initiation of a series of random events which trend in a manner which you perceive to be favorable.

After two years without missing a single daily post, I'm taking tomorrow off, immediately eliminating the pressure of attempting to attain illusory perfection in 2015. If there's something you can skip tomorrow, I heartily recommend it.

As long as it doesn't involve personal hygiene.

-----

Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed, is more important than any other one thing.
-Abraham Lincoln

An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.
-Bill Vaughan

Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.
-Benjamin Franklin

Before celebrating too much, you should be certain the statute of limitations expires on January 1 and not the date of the original offense.
-Unattributed

Celebrate what you want to see more of.
-Tom Peters

Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.
-Brooks Atkinson

Every New Year is the direct descendant, isn't it, of a long line of proven criminals?
-Ogden Nash

For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await another voice.
-T.S. Eliot

Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.
-Oscar Wilde

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling; He who makes one is a fool.
-F.M. Knowles

I am resolved to grow fat, and look young till forty.
-John Dryden

I have never heard anything about the resolutions of the apostles, but a good deal about their acts.
-Horace Mann

I made no resolutions for the New Year. The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.
-Anaïs Nin

I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's.
-Henry Moore

Many years ago I resolved never to bother with New Year's resolutions, and I've stuck with it ever since.
-Dave Beard

May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions.
-Joey Adams

.New Year's Day... now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.
-Mark Twain

New Year's Eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights.
-Hamilton Wright Mabie

New Year's Eve is like the death of a pet- you know it's going to happen, but somehow you're never really prepared for how truly awful it is.
-John Oliver

New Year's Eve we got five dollars for the evening- but that was from eight to unconscious.
-Sid Caesar

New Year's Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive.
-Jay Leno

New Year's Resolution: To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time.
-James Agate

New Years Eve: when the beautiful promise of tomorrow is transformed into the ugly reality of today, and the disgusting miasma of now becomes the rosy nostalgic netherworlds of yesterday.
-J.C. Duffy

Resolutions, like the good, die young.
-Fulton J. Sheen

Resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer.
-Abraham Lincoln

Resolve to be thyself: and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery.
-Matthew Arnold

Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence. If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
-Horace Mann

Resolve, then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.(From the comic strip Pogo)
-Walt Kelly

The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.
-Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to.
-P.J. O'Rourke

Time has no divisions to mark its passage; there is never a thunderstorm to announce the beginning of a new year. It is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols.
-Thomas Mann

Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
-Hal Borland

Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.
-Mark Twain

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.
-Helen Keller

Youth is when you're allowed to stay up late on New Year's Eve. Middle age is when you're forced to.
-Bill Vaughan


Categories: Holidays, KGB, KGB Blog News, KGB Opinion, Quotes on a topic


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Childhood Amnesia
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Published Monday, November 10, 2014 @ 12:53 AM EST
Nov 10 2014

This article on childhood amnesia made me think about my own earliest memories.

The most primal ones are just fragments, flashes of images and sound to which I can't attach specific dates or locations.

I believe I do remember my second birthday: September 11, 1956. At least I think it was my second birthday; there was a cake and candles and people singing, and Elvis was playing on the radio- "Hound Dog," a song my grandmother liked and often sang to me. It was at the top of the charts in the fall of that year.

There was Mister Peepers, a big white German Shepherd my dad brought home. The dog was named after the Wally Cox character from the 1952-1956 television series. He was huge, friendly, exuberant, and had the unfortunate habit of knocking me over. Repeatedly. Think Calvin and Hobbes.

I remember crying- not from the collisions, but when my grandmother yelled at my father that a 50 pound "puppy" was not an appropriate pet for someone my age living in an apartment in the city.

Mr. Peepers was relocated to a relative of my cousins'. We visited him once on something like a farm- it was a long drive, and there were lots of fields and woods. Having spent my life to that point in downtown Homestead, it made an indelible impression. I could run around with other children, play hide and seek, get a Pepsi from the big ice-filled tub and drink it right out of the bottle.

I mimicked the older kids and picked ripe blueberries. Speaking of indelible impressions- I gathered them in my white t-shirt, which turned an amazing shade of purple. I thought it was neat; my father was not as impressed. He made me take it off, and he tossed it, explaining to a group of laughing adults that my grandmother would kill him if she saw the stain.

I also sustained my first sunburn, and remember lying in bed while my grandmother slathered me with Noxzema. The summertime equivalent of Vicks Vapo-Rub, these two ubiquitous 1950s home remedies are probably responsible for my lifetime dislike of the aromas of camphor and eucalyptus. As she forced the smelly cream into my toasted epidermis, she yelled at my Dad. "I told you not to let him run around without a shirt on. Where's his shirt? Where are his shoes? ... What. In. The. Name. Of. Jesus!? ... Why does this child have blueberries in his hair?!"

I know I wasn't in school then, and I'm guessing by my general mobility and improved motor skills- I don't recall being flattened by Mr. Peepers on this occasion- that this was July or August of 1957. Again, Elvis helps with the dating: one of the kids had a teddy bear, and I remember Elvis singing about it. "(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear" was the number one song on the radio for most of July and August that year, the months for picking blueberries.

My grandmother ran a boarding house and I would play under a table in the living room while her boarders watched TV. One program stuck out in my memory, but only vague details. It was by Alfred Hitchcock; there was a woman at the top of a flight of steps; and she said, "Oh, good," which elicited gales of laughter from the adults which continued until the commercial break.

Thanks to the marvels of the Internet, I was able to find the program:

It was the first episode of the television series Suspicion, entitled "Four O'Clock," directed by Alfred Hitchcock and broadcast on September 30, 1957 on WIIC Channel 11, which had just gone on the air on September 1.

Suspicion aired at 10 pm- kind of late for a three year old. But I also have fond memories of watching What's My Line and Candid Camera and listening to Ed and Wendy King's Party Line on KDKA Radio. I don't think my grandparents ever made a big deal out of when I went to bed; at least I have no traumatic memories surrounding bedtime. I don't know if that demonstrates a lack of parenting skills or the early recognition and tacit acceptance of the bizarre circadian rhythm I maintain to this day.

There are several Christmases in the late 50s of which I have black and white photos, but, honestly, my original memories of them are undoubtedly affected by the snapshots.

I remember my first day of kindergarten, which was probably August 30, 1959; Khrushchev visiting Mesta Machine in West Homestead on September 24, 1959; the Pirates winning the World Series on October 13, 1960; and the election of President Kennedy on November 8, 1960 and his inauguration on January 20, 1961. My grandfather was a rather reserved, stoic person. He was also a Democratic committeeman. His excitement over Kennedy's win was therefore quite memorable.

From that point on, my memory is fairly intact. I recall the names of all of my teachers, and about 90% of the kids in all the class photos.

My "adult" memory- that contiguous chain of chronological recollections tied to times and events which extend to the present- began on November 22, 1963.

I was nine years old then, around the time researchers say our brains lock in the childhood recollections we'll carry through the rest of our lives- the point where our "mature" memory begins functioning. Perhaps. But until then, I really hadn't paid much attention to what was going on in the world. After Kennedy's assassination I began noting and filing memories in an orderly fashion, instead of just throwing them in the pile of passed (and past) occurrences.

Just don't ask me what I had for breakfast.


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Over the hill
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Published Thursday, September 11, 2014 @ 7:44 AM EDT
Sep 11 2014

Sixty is much better than thirty, if only in the knowledge that I don't have to turn fifty again. And, of course, I no longer have to worry about dying young.

I'm certainly not where I thought I would be at this age. But then, they never developed personal jet packs, either.

Thanks for all the birthday wishes!
-KGB

-----

I used to dread getting older because I thought I would not be able to do all the things I wanted to do, but now that I am older I find that I don't want to do them.
-Nancy Astor

I take it for granted that I am growing older, although, except for a slight arteriosclerosis and an inability to hear, I would never know it.
-Robert Benchley

I will never be an old man. To me, old age is fifteen years older than I am.
-Bernard Baruch

Old age is not an accomplishment; it is just something that happens to you despite yourself, like falling downstairs.
-Robert A. Heinlein

They tell you that you'll lose you mind when you grow older. What they don't tell you is that you won't miss it very much.
-Malcolm Cowley

At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At 40, we don't care what they think of us. At 60, we discover they haven't been thinking of us at all.
-Ann Landers

Can you picture yourself at the age 60 doing what you do now?
-Dick Cavett

I do not ask to be young again; all I want is to go on getting older.
-Konrad Adenauer

How can they say my life is not a success? Have I not for more than sixty years got enough to eat and escaped being eaten?
-Logan Pearsall Smith

As one gets older, one discovers everything is going to be exactly the same with different hats on.
-Noel Coward

I didn't hate being 60 as much as I had 50.
-Sammy Davis, Jr.

I recently turned sixty. Practically a third of my life is over.
-Woody Allen

The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.
-Madeleine L'Engle

If life is a journey, then your 60s are the homeward leg when you're hung up in an airport and thinking bad thoughts about your travel agent.
-Garrison Keillor

Now that I am 60, I see why the idea of elder wisdom has passed from currency.
-John Updike

One starts to get young at the age of sixty and then it's too late.
-Pablo Picasso

Our generation are the new old. I remember what someone of 60 looked like when I was a kid. They didn't look like me.
-Jack Nicholson

The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old, servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.
-Hervey Allen

There has never been an intelligent person of the age of sixty who would consent to live his life over again.
-Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

You must not pity me because my sixtieth year finds me still astonished. To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly.
-Sidonie Gabrielle Colette


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Photogenic
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Published Monday, June 23, 2014 @ 5:29 PM EDT
Jun 23 2014

I was mostly ignoring a television commercial for the latest Transformers movie when I glanced at the screen and thought I recognized something.

I hit pause on the DVR, reversed it a frame at a time and- yes! There it is!

In this screen grab of aerial mayhem over Chicago's West Loop, you can clearly see the mothership- 101 North Wacker Drive, the home of my employer, Datalogics, Incorporated.

The arrow indicates the location of the employee lounge.

Too bad this is cgi. The lunchtime discussions would have been epic.


Categories: KGB, Movies, Photo of the day, Science Fiction


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My Facebook Movie
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Published Wednesday, February 05, 2014 @ 11:41 AM EST
Feb 05 2014

Aside from the first photo, Facebook's automated movie generator did a fairly decent job.


Categories: Facebook, KGB, KGB Family, KGB Opinion


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Welcome to my existence...
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Published Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 5:12 PM EST
Jan 07 2014

(YouTube video: art imitates life.)


Categories: KGB, YouTube


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Temporal ramblings (Updated)
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Published Saturday, November 23, 2013 @ 6:18 PM EST
Nov 23 2013

It seems everyone who remembers November 22, 1963 spent at least a part of yesterday rummaging through the recesses of their memories. So I was in the appropriate frame of mind when Homestead Councilman and fellow Daily Messenger alumni Lloyd Cunningham sent me this old advertisement:

From 1959 through 1967, my father and I lived with his mother and stepfather on the third floor of this former hotel, at the corner of East Eighth Avenue and McClure Street.

The picture's undated, but I'm guessing it's circa 1910. Note the reference in the ad to P. & A. Telephone? According to Poor's Manual of Public Utilities, the Pittsburgh and Allegheny Telephone Company bought the Homestead Telephone Company in 1903, so it's sometime between that date and 1914, when P. & A. went into receivership. Allegheny County's property assessment website, usually a good source of information, had no building details and an incorrect street address- 344 instead of 342. [While the property dates to the early 1900s, Lloyd reports the photo was taken in 1942, when it was called the Liberty Hotel.]

Here's the Google Maps photo of the property from this past August:

Directly opposite was the Mellon Bank managed by Mike Solomon, and the Gulf gasoline station owned by Jack Scandrol and George New, Katilius Furniture was on the Munhall side. Capitol Cleaners was on the other corner.

We had seven rooms and one bath. The structures on the roof and the second floor porch/deck shown in the old photo were already gone when we lived there. There was a rickety fire escape outside the bathroom window. My grandmother kept old rugs there and some potted plants, and it was the shortcut to get to the garbage cans in the alley. The second floor was occupied by a dentist office, a steelworker who rented just one room, and a woman who rented the rest of the floor. (She owned and ran Juanita's Restaurant, at the corner of McClure Street and Hazel Way, the alley between Eighth and Ninth Avenues.)

Note the two small extrusions casting shadows on the front of the building? They supported a large sign for the clothing store once located on the ground floor: "Solomons," with the name spelled vertically in foot-high letters. I remember it vividly because I could see it from my bedroom (the window on the top right of the building). I also remember it because during a game of laundry catch with my Uncle Doyle, he missed, and a pair of my grandfather's dirty boxer shorts ended up hanging from the sign. I don't recall how they were removed, but I do remember my grandmother wouldn't speak to me for two days. It's more than fifty years ago, and I remember Grandma's silent treatment and how she forgave me and made me promise I'd never hurt her again by embarrassing her with my behavior. (My family never believed in spanking, but elevated guilt to an art form.)

Ownership of the building changed hands, and a discount shoe store opened on the ground floor. Eventually, the owner decided to convert the building into one-room cubbyholes, and we moved to a second floor apartment at 810 Ann Street, above Jones & McClure Realty at the corner of East Ninth Avenue and Ann Street, directly across from the Homestead United Presbyterian Church. I lived there until June, 1973, when I got married.

Here's an aerial map of a portion of Homestead and Munhall. On November 22, 1963, I was in fourth grade, and nine years old. It's interesting to note where a nine year old could wander unsupervised, provided he had a destination (Grandma checked) and the street lights hadn't gone on yet.

Ranging Habits of a Nine Year Old Boy
(circa 1963)

  1. Home (342 East Eighth Avenue)
  2. Homestead Elementary School (12th Avenue and Glenn Street)
  3. J & I Dairy, 13th Avenue & McClure Street (source of Superman comic books)
  4. Carnegie Library of Homestead (510 East 10th Avenue, Munhall)
  5. Ninth Avenue Playground/Homestead Borough Building
  6. Ray Roland's house (East 12th Avenue near McClure Street)
  7. Margie's Dairy Store (East 12th Avenue and Ann Street)
  8. Homestead United Presbyterian Church (908 Ann Street)
  9. "You are not allowed to cross West Street. I don't care if it has traffic lights, walk signs, or the Angel Gabriel. It's not safe."

Categories: History, KGB, KGB Family


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Semantics
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Published Thursday, November 14, 2013 @ 11:43 AM EST
Nov 14 2013

I used to be an Application Support Engineer.

I am now an Enterprise Support Engineer.

Just call me Scotty. And keep the red shirt, ok?


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The toe cramp from hell
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Published Thursday, August 22, 2013 @ 1:27 AM EDT
Aug 22 2013

Earlier in the evening, I had a severe spasm in my right leg. It was still bothering me, but I went to bed...

Only to be awakened two hours later with a cramp in my right little toe of such magnitude that as I reached to massage it, I was certain it had rotated 180° and folded back over the top of my foot.

Nope... it was positioned appropriately, but I had to get up and put pressure on it to stop the sensation of it being crushed by a large piece of farm equipment.

So I'm at my desk, pressing my foot into the floor, and trying to take my mind off it...

"Nocturnal leg cramps are sudden contractions of the lower leg and foot muscles. They often awaken you from sleep... The cramps are harmless. They do not mean that you have a serious disease."

They then list various causes, including neurological diseases, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, hypoglycemia, and hormone disorders.

Oh, good. No serious diseases in that list...


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I really need to cut the grass.
(permalink)

Published Monday, July 01, 2013 @ 9:24 AM EDT
Jul 01 2013

"Hey, Dad! I think I found Jimmy Hoffa!"


Categories: Animals, Dogs, KGB


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Uneasy lies the head...
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Published Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 4:44 AM EDT
May 29 2013

Wow.

I just had the most bizarre, vivid dream of my life. Seriously.

Sufficiently vivid to send me catapulting out of bed to the keyboard- wide awake, 100% alert, and without an intervening stop at the bathroom and coffeemaker- and sufficiently bizarre that I really can't write about it in detail.

It involves a trip to a Los Angeles barber shop, a dead celebrity, hospital waiting rooms, appearing on a television show, cab rides, botched airline reservations- a sequence of events as lucid as any I've experienced in real life, but that are, upon reflection, a spectacular collection of somnambular non-sequiturs.

I usually don't have dreams of such preternatural quality. I also don't subscribe to the belief that dreams have any deep meaning. Still, when you're wide awake at four a.m., asking yourself "Where the hell did that come from?", you find yourself replaying the previous day's events in your memory, looking for potential triggers.

Right before going to bed, we watched the last episode of the second season of The West Wing, in which a major character dies. Although the dream wasn't about that character or actor, it did involve a deceased performer I greatly admired. Los Angeles? That's where the series was filmed and the celebrity lived. Barber shop? I need a haircut and have been trying to work out the logistics of getting to the barber within the next week. Hospital waiting rooms- clearing out some old files yesterday, I encountered the discharge instructions from my inpatient treatment for pneumonia last year. Appearing on television and cab rides- the last time I was in New York, I stopped by ABC World News Now in the middle of the night, and when leaving the city to go to my next stop, a business trip to Germany, my cabbie nearly got into a fistfight with a driver who cut him off. During that trip to Germany, Jimmy Doohan- the actor who played Scotty on Star Trek- passed away. Not the celebrity in my dream, but another dead performer. Botched airline reservations- checked the balance information on an airline-branded credit card account yesterday.

I guess there is a loose thread connecting the events in my dream; the weirdness comes from my subconscious mind shoehorning them into a narrative that makes about as much sense as the script to Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Oh well. It's 5 am and I'm up. I'll get a head start on the day.

Maybe I can squeeze in that haircut.


Categories: KGB, WTF?


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Seventeen thousand
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Published Friday, April 12, 2013 @ 11:05 AM EDT
Apr 12 2013

The KGB Quotations Database has reached 17,000 entries.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled ennui.


Categories: KGB, KGB Blog News, KGB Quotations Database


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Comments to my future self
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Published Saturday, March 30, 2013 @ 7:30 AM EDT
Mar 30 2013

"Debugging is twice as hard as writing the code in the first place. Therefore, if you write the code as cleverly as possible, you are, by definition, not smart enough to debug it."
-Brian Kernighan

I'm working on a major project and including code from stuff I wrote in 1988. It reminds me of how much I've forgotten- well, not forgotten, but not recently accessed. The feeling's similar to the rush of memories you get when viewing an old picture album. And it's reassuring to see my overall state of mind hasn't changed, based on the comments in the code, like:

* Years from now you will review this function and say to
* yourself:
*
* "Boy, this is really crappy code. I should take the time and
* optimize it."
*
* You probably won't remember, but you spent an entire
* weekend of unbillable time tweaking this. You increased
* its execution speed by 30%, but in the process crafted
* a function of such blinding elegance that when you
* reviewed it the next day, you discovered it was totally
* incomprehensible. So you put the old code back in.
*
* This is running on a 386 machine with a 12Mhz clock
* and 640K, and the profiler lists the execution time as 211
* milliseconds. A bit slow, but acceptable.
*
* So forget about it.

"12 Mhz clock and a full 640k."

My current laptop has a 2.4 gigaHertz clock, which is 200 times faster than that old 386 desktop. That kludgy, awkwardly written function that required 211 milliseconds to run now takes a little over one millisecond, and the file that took 20 seconds to process runs so fast that the command prompt appears immediately after I hit the return key.

Thank you, 1988 KGB, for the unexpectedly wise advice. And by the way, Fox canceled Tracey Ullman, but the Simpsons got their own show and are still on the air. And that "Naked Gun" movie you saw with Doug last weekend? Keep an eye on O.J. Simpson. Trust me.

-----

You may ask, how did I remember taking my son to see "Police Squad?" Thanks to Google and the Internet Movie Database, this program comment now makes sense:

* "Hey Look! It's Enrico Pallazzo!"
dexxxe('identfy_provider(name,specialty,location)')


Categories: Computers, KGB


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You will be assimilated. More or less.
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Published Wednesday, March 27, 2013 @ 12:13 AM EDT
Mar 27 2013

This will really make my Linked In profile stand out.


Categories: KGB, Linked In, Photo of the day, Star Trek, WTF?


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Once in a while I get it right...
(permalink)

Published Thursday, March 21, 2013 @ 5:25 AM EDT
Mar 21 2013

I've started referring to the proposed action against Iraq as Desert Storm 1.1, since it reminds me of a Microsoft upgrade: it's expensive, most people aren't sure they want it, and it probably won't work.
-Kevin G. Barkes (May 10, 2002)


Categories: KGB, KGB Opinion, KGB Quotations Database, Quotes of the day


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